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The institutionalization of neuromarketing

The institutionalization of neuromarketing

To my knowledge, history and sociology of science concentrate their efforts much on ideas (intellectual histories) and technologies (technology studies, or STS). Coming from economics, I developed the feeling that this distinction leads to neglect the applied side of science: neither purely ethereal as ideas can be, nor completely embodied in objects, with contours and patented identities, as technologies can be.

Applied economics, like finance, health economics, agricultural economics, etc., surely deserve a special reflection on their organizational dimension, and the special places where they are developed. Beyond the dichotomy of ideas and tools, theoretical and technological, the stuff of applied science is the organizational, and the intercultural. Where is it practiced? Under which contractual arrangements? For which output, measured against which standards? Sales, publications, royalties, size of an organization, a successful career of entrepreneur? Peer-review process or hierarchical coordination? Impact factor,  profit target, or audience ratings?

To give an example. Yesterday, the university of Reading posted a job announcement to hire a “Neuro Marketing Researcher“.

Bunnyfoot specializes in eyetracking

Bunnyfoot specializes in eyetracking

The deal is a two-years project to work not in the university, but in a private firm specializing in eye-tracking, Bunnyfoot Ltd. The firm cooperates with the university of Reading under a Knowledge Transfer Partnership, for example in this recruitment process.

To me, this is a nice illustration of how neuromarketing develops in practice, and that it must be understood by observing its development at the interface between several cultures. It can’t be classified, or studied, as merely an academic venture OR a business opportunity. Just like finance, neuroeconomics, economics of development, and any economics-of-applied-stuff, neuromarketing does not develop only in the ivory tower of academia, but also in consumer groups, small consulting firms, hospitals, courts, cabinets, NGOs, funding agencies, professional and popular media, and the interstices between all of these. What an exciting program for research!

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